Friends of Portland shooting victim Aaron J. Danielson say he wasn’t an agitator or radical, but a “freedom-loving American,” amid the politically charged atmosphere in the city.
Danielson was fatally shot in the chest Saturday during clashes between pro-Trump groups and left-wing protesters, according to police.
He was positively identified by the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Portland Police Bureau announced in a statement Monday. The fatal shooting came after the “Trump 2020 Cruise Rally in Portland,” in which supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in cars and drove in a caravan into Portland. Video footage from CNN affiliate KOIN showed pickup trucks with American flags, “Thin Blue Line” flags, and Trump 2020 flags.
The far-right group Patriot Prayer, which has previously clashed with left-wing demonstrators, mourned Danielson’s death.
“(H)e had [such] a huge heart,” group organizer Joey Gibson said on his Facebook page. “God bless [him and] the life he lived.”
Gibson had shared a truck bed with Danielson at Saturday’s rally, CNN affiliate KATU reported.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, blamed Saturday night’s violence on the caravan and Patriot Prayer, saying the group and other self-proclaimed militia members drove into downtown Portland “armed and looking for a fight.”
During a news conference Monday, his friends mourned his death and attempted to dispel speculation online about “a man who was taken so callously.”
Luke Carrillo, Danielson’s friend and business partner for nearly two decades, could barely hold back tears as he read a prepared statement, recalling the years in which they worked side-by-side, sharing a home and a business.
“We were like brothers. Brothers who chose one another, absolutely inseparable. My life and my family’s life are forever changed in the blink of an eye,” he said.
“Jay touched many lives over the years through his business and personal endeavors. Jay was quick-witted and funny as could be. Quick to crack a joke or offer a hug. Jay loved this community and the people within it. Jay loved being a Portlander and [loved] showing out-of-towners his chosen hometown.”
A second friend, who only identified himself as Michael, remained emotional throughout his statement about the man he said friends referred to simply as “J.”
“When I moved to this city in 2014, I had little more than a pickup truck and a plan, and neither of those were much to mention. But Aaron looked at me and saw a person in need, and he filled that need by opening his home to me before I had [a way] to pay the rent and before I had a way to help him with the bills,” he recalled. “The only question he dared ask me as he entered the house was ‘how do you like your steak cooked? Cause we’ve got a couple going on the grill tonight. Welcome.’… He was a good, good man that would have helped anyone with any need at any time.”
Carrillo said Danielson was not associated with extremism.
Danielson’s friends did not comment on the investigation, but felt Portland Police will do “everything in their power to bring the person who did this to justice.”
An investigation into the shooting is being led by the Portland Police Bureau, along with assistance from the FBI and ATF. Authorities have not yet identified a suspect in Danielson’s death.
CNN’s Sarah Moon contributed to this report.